What is Turmeric?
Turmeric has been widely used for centuries as a food source with powerful biological uses, although its popularity in Western cultures is fairly new.
It is important to source the best quality turmeric, often called 100% turmeric or pure turmeric. Cheaper versions may include fillers and contain residue from curcumin extraction. Turmeric can be bought from Indian or Asian markets, health food stores and supermarkets but it is important to ensure that it is a quality product. Ideally buy organic turmeric to avoid any treatment with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Curcuma longa, which is the botanical name for turmeric, comes in about 30 varieties from different regions. Each variety contains between 2.5-5% curcumin. As many companies combine turmeric varieties to produce turmeric powder it may not be possible to know the percentage of curcumin in the finished product, however the average is around 3%. The Aleppey variety is often sold by itself and is around 5% curcumin, however this isn’t widely available. It is best not to get too obsessed with the percentage of curcumin.
Traditionally turmeric is used culinary as a powdered spice to complement Indian cuisine to add taste and also colour. Many Indians add turmeric to all their cooking which is effective in incorporating it into the diet, however just adding it occasionally is ineffective.
Commercially turmeric and curcumin come in the form of capsules, tinctures, teas and powders. Products that say “Turmeric/Curcumin” are highly concentrated extract of curcumin rather than turmeric. Some may contain both curcumin and whole turmeric, some may have black pepper and/or highly processed lipids added. None of them are whole turmeric.
Some capsules are available that are whole turmeric and some of those also contain black pepper. These can be useful for convenience nonetheless they don’t contain all the ingredients of whole turmeric, and they have far more curcumin than our bodies require or can utilise. There had been no long term testing on their use in animals.
There is evidence that high-concentrate curcumin supplementation to the diet can help if you or your animal has cancer, however it is important to seek advice from your vet or doctor as it could interfere with medications and is inadvisable if your pet will be having radiotherapy.
To add turmeric to your diet in the traditional form you can make a golden paste which involves adding freshly ground black pepper and oil or fats. It is important to use a healthy source of fat or non-inflammatory oil, for example, cold-pressed unrefined coconut oil, virgin olive oil, or linseed (flax) oil. Oil is required to dissolve the turmeric so it can be incorporated into the body
Alternatively fats can be used such as butter, ghee or high quality lard. For horses use micronized linseed or linseed oil. Dogs may prefer salmon oil.
For dried oils inclusing linseed or coconut use 3 times as much as for liquids.
Freshly ground black pepper is also added. The primary active ingredient of black pepper is piperine, and this dispels rapidly on exposure to heat, light and air hence why the pepper should be freshly ground. If you are making golden paste the oil will help protect the piperine. The pepper assisits in keeping the turmeric active in your bloodstream.